Genre: RPG Developer: Gametec Publisher: Super Fighter Team Players: 1 Released: 2008
Two years after the successful release of Beggar Prince, Super Fighter Team has returned with another RPG for eager Genesis fans. As we detailed in our preview last October, Legend of Wukong is a turn-based affair that’s finally seeing the light of day outside Taiwan. For those who are looking for something new to pop into their Genesis consoles this holiday season, it looks like Christmas is arriving early this year.
After the nosy Wukong tampers with his scientist neighbor’s time machine, the boy is sent back into feudal China, where the monsters intercept the machine before Dr. Tang’s Automated Robotic System Extractor (ARSE) can go back in time and retrieve it. Now, Wukong must set things right and find the machine if he ever wants to return to his own time. Along the way he enlists the help of the womanizing Pigsy, a man cursed with the body of a beast, and the vengeful Wujing, who seeks to rid the world of the demons that killed her mother. Together the trio will explore the ancient Chinese countryside and battle all sorts of nasty foes in order to return Wukong to the present.
Going through a fact sheet of how Legend of Wukong plays shouldn’t be necessary, as the game plays similar to a lot of turn-based RPGs of the era. Battles are viewed from the side, and you plan your attacks for each character and watch events unfold. There’s lots of exploration and upgrading of equipment – everything you’d expect. To me, what makes this release stand out is the the presentation of the story, beyond the cute cut scenes sprinkled throughout the adventure. The dialogue is filled with witty and humorous instances that will keep gamers chuckling from beginning to end. The impact this has on the game cannot be measured, as a lot of the storylines from the 16-bit era were quite dry. Wukong’s dialogue and narration tend to stand out among other offerings, and perhaps one can attribute this to a modern hand in the translation, but it’s truly a welcome thing.
That by no means suggests that the rest of Legend of Wukong trails along. Far from it. The battles, though a bit too frequent for my tastes, are smooth and fair. Should the player assign the characters to attack a specific foe that’s dispatched before their turn, the attack will simply be directed towards another enemy. No “empty turns” here. There’s also the option to simply let the combatants duke it out, with the player deciding when to change tactics. Magic is diverse and powerful, if lacking a bit in animation. Each of the three characters is adept at using it, and all level up quickly enough to provide players with a decent store of spells in a short amount of time.
About the battles: while frequent (what random battles aren’t?), they thankfully don’t reach Vay proportions of “step and fight” tedium. There is, however, a bit of grinding to be done at the beginning, and players shouldn’t go anywhere near the first cave until they’re at least level seventeen. Fortunately, the rest of the adventure is pretty steady once that hurdle has been passed. Pigsy and Wujing catch up in levels quickly, and there will be more than enough gold in the coffers to equip them with the best equipment as soon as they join. There’s also a quick travel option – two of them, actually – which is vital, as no two towns sell the same equipment. Looking for some more stealth grass? Only one or two places sell it, so if one doesn’t take the time to write it down somewhere, expect to do some shopping. This isn’t a big deal really, as other RPGs like the Phantasy Star series shared the trait of assigning particular products to certain stores. Heck, those game made players travel to different planets to buy their wares!
What contributes to the difficulty more than the random battles is the dungeon design. Legend of Wukong’s multiple labyrinths, though small in physical size, boast patterns that will often lead to dead ends, long twists and turns, and run-arounds to reach a particular destination. Returning to the Phantasy Star comparison, I was instantly reminded of the dungeon structures of Phantasy Star 2 when I played Wukong. Much like that 16-bit classic, your treks are rewarded with many a treasure chest, making wrong turns sting less than they normally would. Wandering around aimlessly can take its toll though, and players who aren’t careful can soon find themselves desperate for the exit, with no healing items and more than one fainted hero.
The narration, gameplay, design – all of this is done in particularly polished fashion, with a subtle aesthetic charm that grows more with each play. Initially, I was a bit wary of the presentation, as the public screen shots suggested the game would be perhaps a bit too old school in the graphics department. While Legend of Wukong doesn’t boast a ton of parallax scrolling or cool lighting effects, there isn’t really anything to complain about. Towns and dungeons are colorful and detailed, and Gamtec has added little touches, such as the cut scenes and little animated faces during battle. If I have any complaints, it’s that the enemies could have used some more animation… that and the creepy dude with the glasses who shows up in all the towns!
The soundtrack fits nicely into all of this, with some memorable themes that stick around long enough to be learned but not long enough to become repetitive (as all good themes should). Every areas has its own overworld theme, and the variety in the score is on par with the changing visuals, always presenting something new to look forward to. I detected a certain style of music akin to earlier Genesis releases, with a bit more bass and the use of some effects that were missing in later games. Personally, I love the distinctive sound of those first generation Genesis titles, and the music in Wukong was refreshing.
The bottom line, after ripping off all the pretty “another game for my Genesis” trappings, is that Legend of Wukong is a solid, polished entry into the console’s RPG stable. The interaction between the three heroes, the variety of enemies and environments, and the amusing dialogue make for a great way to spend a few afternoons. I can think of few ways to better spend a holiday than playing a great Genesis RPG, and this is one that’s new to everyone outside of southeast Asia. Super Fighter Team has done a great job with the translation and major bug fixes and improvements. Don’t miss out on a stellar sophomore effort, and help Wukong find his way home. He’d do it for you!